Almost thirty years ago, on April 25, 1993, nearly 1,000,000 people marched onto the nation’s capitol in the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. The preamble to the event’s platform read:
The Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, and Transgender movement recognizes that our quest for social justice fundamentally links us to the struggles against racism and sexism, class bias, economic injustice and religious intolerance. We must recognize if one of us is oppressed we are all oppressed. The diversity of our movement requires and compels us to stand against all forms of oppression that diminish the life of all people. We will be vigilant in our determination to rid our movement and our society of all forms of oppression and exploitation so that all of us can develop to our full human potential without regard to race, religion sexual orientation/identity, gender and gender identity, age, ability or class.
Read the 2023 Assessment of the 1993 March on Washington Demands
That preamble served as an introduction to a platform that called for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, and gender expression in health care, in AIDS funding, in education programs, the military, in private consensual activities, and called for the freedom of reproductive rights and to control our own bodies.
Those ideas were neither new nor radical then; they were action points toward a more equal and free society. However, we are now witnesses to a resurgence, embrace, and prominence of the ills against which the marchers gathered in the nation’s capitol, and the principles for which we marched are subject to venal attacks and whole governments’ retreat from the liberated society envisioned by the marchers.
We witness trans visibility being replaced by a trans panic in which trans people and trans teens are fodder for ire, diverting attention from actual ills: poverty, climate change, persistent inequities in health care, and non-ending institutional racism.
Our nation is home to brutal attacks on bodily autonomy: ignoring trans kids’ needs and denying them access to health care (and ignoring the parental rights of parents who support and love their trans kids), the retreat from reproductive rights, and criminalizing people who choose to terminate pregnancies as well as doctors and agencies who would assist them (meanwhile rural communities struggle to find health care providers).
We witness assaults on the very basic notion of educating our people — all our people — on the historical truths of a country built on stolen land and by the labor of enslaved people, accommodated by genocide, and seasoned by perpetual violent organized, legalized, and institutionalized racism despite the fact that burying history denies the very humanity of people of color, allowing racism to flourish. The history of the United States is not morally reconcilable. But, our future as a free and just society depends upon reconciling our recorded and taught history with the truth that was lived.
We witness a rise in religious intolerance in which anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim factions are emboldened and empowered to call for the destruction of religious and cultural freedoms and to deny the very existence of any religion not based on Christianity. But these are not just attacks on religious ideas and freedoms, these are attacks on the very lives of people whose cultural identities grow from or hew to spiritual and unbreakable bonds.
In reflecting on these platform items and their preamble at this landmark anniversary, we feel it is time to call upon all people of goodwill to resist the reactionary dismissal of the specifics of the March on Washington platform and the principles embodied therein. Let us not be fooled that our work is done by a few moderate advances. The assaults we see are real, fervent, well-funded, dangerous, and antithetical to the very tenet of American ideas.
America can do better. America must.
In the last thirty years, the world has shifted toward inclusivity, let us not give in to the voices whose fear, bigotry, and lust for power lead them to demonize an “other” and turn Americans against Americans for no other purpose than their own political and economic gains. Do not be lulled. Do not be silent. Refuse to have our rights siloed by divisive voices that will toss us crumbs in hopes that we will turn against one another for their benefit and gains.
The words of the 1993 March on Washington preamble and platform still reflect beautiful goals. Let us remember that we came together on April 25, 1993, under the world’s watchful eyes, not just for rights, but liberation. Not just for a change in laws, but for the ability to live full lives, to breathe as truly free human beings. It is still a simple matter of justice.
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